Living in Vacant Spaces

Kelsey Willis

5th Year M.Arch



The city of Christchurch has had more than its share of hard times. Before the recent white supremacist attacks, the town was nearly destroyed by an earthquake, leaving huge swaths of the city vacant.

I went to Christchurch to look at the powerful and often strange manners in which life is returning to vacant spaces. Objects of whimsy and creativity are part of the streets, scattered among vacant lots and late modernist offices. You can follow paths through the city marked by sites for play and exploration.


While the rebuilding process is still very much ongoing, there is something magical about seeing the citizens of a city seize the opportunity to redefine it for themselves.

Christchurch, an almost-coastal city about the size of New Orleans, is being transformed by its residents from a corporate stakeout in Oceania to something with a strange and adventurous soul of its own.